On the eve of a much-anticipated summit finish on the Puy de Dôme, the peloton still had to cover a tricky stage, this Saturday, towards Limoges and from Libourne, birthplace of Quentin Pacher. While a tough sprint concluded the day as expected, with the victory of Mads Pedersen, David Gaudu (20th) managed to finish within the main peloton, surrounded by Quentin Pacher (17th) and Valentin Madouas (22nd) until the very last metres of stage 8. The Breton will tackle the old volcano from Auvergne tomorrow as seventh overall.
Unlike the day before towards Bordeaux, many riders aimed for the breakaway on Saturday towards Limoges, and the race at the start proved completely different. A fierce fight and many attacks therefore took place from Libourne, but in the end, only three riders were authorized to hit the front, after twenty kilometers: Tim Declercq (Soudal-Quick Step), Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa -Samsic) and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies). “We took the start thinking that there could be two possible scenarios: a big fight at the beginning to join the breakaway, in which case it would have been a very strong break, or a final sprint”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “The peloton chose the second option”. The sprinters’ teams, in particular, were quite satisfied with the scenario, and therefore controlled everything once the trio was gone. “We were expecting the race to be a bit livelier, in which case I could have gone for it, but when we saw that there were only three riders in front, we preferred to stay in the peloton with David to protect him,” said Quentin Pacher. The bunch maintained the leading men at just five minutes, then logically got closer on the second, harder half of the course. As usual, the tension increased in the last fifty kilometres, and even further before the last two climbs located in the final.
“We were not put in danger”, Philippe Mauduit
In the lead, Turgis tried to make his attempt last as long as possible. However, he was caught shortly after the top of the last hill, where the yellow jersey team set an extremely high tempo. Heading to Limoges, Simon Yates, fourth in the general classification, was caught in a crash. Although being quite reduced, the bunch remained very nervous for the slight uphill finish. After one kilometre averaging 4%, Mads Pedersen eventually took the sprint ahead of Jasper Philipsen, while David Gaudu made sure not to take any split by taking twentieth place on the day, three positions behind Quentin Pacher. “I had to protect David in the final climbs and all the way to Limoges, so I took the opportunity to get involved in the sprint a bit”, explained the man from Libourne. “It was still a sprint for big guys, not necessarily for the punchers, but it’s always nice to see the head of the peloton a bit”. “The positive point is that we were not put in danger and that David was well protected by his mates”, added Philippe Mauduit. “Another day is done. These stages are still stressful, things can always happen, but we managed to get through it without a hitch”.
On Saturday evening, David Gaudu therefore still sits in seventh place of the general classification, which could change tomorrow on the slopes of the iconic Puy de Dôme (12.6 km at 7.8%). “We’ve been hearing about this stage for a while, and it’s going to be historical no matter what,” said Quentin. “If it’s hot like today, it’s going to be epic. Before the rest day, we can expect a great fight.” “It will be a special day with the Puy de Dôme climb, which is something new for this whole generation of riders, given that it has been more than thirty years since a race has finished up there”, concluded Philippe Mauduit. The last time the Tour stopped there, in 1988, Johnny Weltz took victory and Marc Madiot was still in the peloton.